The Truth Sinks in for the Chattering Class

I watch the Sunday morning talk shows only because I have to, in case some news breaks that I need to write about.  But they’re usually mind-numbing exercises in gasbaggery, endless regurgitation of conventional Washington wisdom.

That’s why Sunday’s This Week on ABC, guest-hosted by Terry Moran, stood out. A gaggle of well-known pundits actually had some interesting things to say about the economy. Their political biases were clear—this is an election year—but there seemed to be rough consensus that the current solutions, Democratic or Republican, aren’t working.

Conservative George Will started by reeling off some grim statistics–if seven million people hadn’t left the workforce, we’d have 10.9% unemployment now.  Then he said:

The president got terrible advice early in his administration…They assured him that this was going to be a V-shaped recovery…It turned out to be not quite an L-shaped, but more like a hockey stick, so that we’re in what is now called properly a growth recession.

Mort Zuckerman, real estate developer and publisher of US News and the New York Daily News—and clearly a Mitt Romney supporter—chimed in:

I think whatever has been tried, add a huge amount of deficit spending, has simply not worked, and so this is going to continue, I believe, for quite a while. And I don’t see any way of getting out of it, because it’s going to be very difficult now to improve the economy through additional fiscal spending…

Roundtable on This Week, from l. to r., host Terry Moran, Mort Zuckerman, Steven Rattner, PBS’s Gwen Ifill, George Will, E.J. Dionne. Photo: ABC News.

Steven Rattner, President Obama’s former car czar, agreed that “we are tapped out in a sense,” but said the auto bailout, financial rescue and economic stimulus “all got us in a much better place than we would have been had none of those things happened.” Then he continued:

A lot of this unemployment is coming from a few very defined sectors: government, which has cut employment, state, local federal; construction, home-building, not surprising. Even things like media, which some of you guys are in, have had flat to declining–and finance, where Mort and I live, have flat to declining employment.

So. when you have roughly a third of your economy either losing jobs or not gaining jobs, it becomes hard.

Later, he criticized Romney in ways similar to what I’ve written here:

If Romney actually starts talking about his economic plan and lays out clearly…what he’s in favor of—20% across-the-board tax cuts that aren’t paid for; privatizing Medicare and turning it into a voucher program; sending Medicaid back to the states as a block grant program, cutting a whole series of programs like food stamps by 33%, I’m not sure he’s going to win the election…

Zuckerman was most pessimistic:

The great American job machine has now broken down. We are four years into a so-called recovery, and it is the worst recovery we’ve ever seen, and now we are — we are looking at the possibility of a double-dip recession. This would be disastrous.

Zuckerman and Will primarily blame the president; Rattner and liberal panelist E.J. Dionne blame the Republican Congress. But despite their efforts to defend the stimulus, the best they could say about it was that it prevented something even worse from happening.

It’s even beginning to sink in in the Beltway:  Neither Keynesian stimulus nor supply-side tax cuts have spurred lasting economic growth, and neither presidential candidate is offering much beyond those two failed alternatives.

As Zuckerman put it, “We’re going to have to find a whole set of different policies that will work.”

Suggestions, anyone?

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